Government to launch Solar Energy Harnessing Centre at IIT Madras

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Set up by Department of Science and Technology (DST) at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IITM) in Chennai, the Solar Energy Harnessing Centre will focus on a wide range of research and technology development activities such as silicon solar cells that promise high efficiency and are suited for Indian conditions.

The Centre will have a network of scientists from IIT Madras, IIT-Guwahati, Anna University, The Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) Mumbai, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) and KGDS Renewable engaged in R&D activities, which will be further expanded. The objective is to create a platform that can be extended readily to strengthen the knowledge eco-system.

The centre is likely to be a true change agent in the energy landscape of India. The consortium will be duly poised to address the sustainability requirements in the spirit of ‘Make in India.’

At present, the production capacity in the Indian PV industry is largely based on crystalline silicon. The installed capacity of solar cells and modules is said to be 1.4 GW and 5.7 GW, respectively. The slow growth trend in cell manufacturing capacity additions may be attributed to the unavailability of raw materials, lack of technological know-how, lack of large-scale demand for domestically manufactured cells, and an unskilled technical workforce.

A recent study by the European Union’s Resource Efficiency Initiative (EU-REI) Project in India highlights that process innovation can reduce primary demand of resources for India’s solar PV manufacturing sector.

By adopting resource efficiency measures, the Indian PV solar manufacturing sector can reduce its material requirement from an estimated 12 million tons to 8.2 million tons by 2030. The resource-efficient approach will also increase efficiency to more than 30% from 6% in 2018, according to the study.

Alongside the Solar Energy Harnessing Centre, the minister would also launch a test bed on solar thermal desalination solutions that are being developed by IIT Madras and Empereal KGDS with the aim to address prevalent water challenges in the arid coastal villages located on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. It would come up with customized technological water solution to provide potable water to coastal areas using solar energy.